Institutional Imagination


I've been doing some reflection and thinking about organizations, and in particular structure, hierarchy, and the nature of institutions.

I'm convinced that institutions are the enemy of good practice. By that I mean that any institution that forms to deliver good practice will always wrestle with becoming so bureaucratic and concerned for itself, that it undermines the very thing is seeks to deliver.

We see this with hospitals for example. Places dedicated to providing medical care to human beings, can become so caught up in politics, and management conflicts that the medical care they are supposed to provide are undermined, and in many cases people are harmed.

We see the same with Church. The organisations of the church to facilitate the incarnation of the gospel, quickly becomes an obstacle to the very nature and purpose the church in the first place, and people are harmed more than helped.

Often in reaction we think that having no programmes, no hierarchy, the removal of institution will solve the problem. After all if the institution is getting in the way of the purpose, get rid of the institution. This response is increasingly ingrained in us, such that even using the word institution is an axiomatic and pejorative.

Many of you will think I am arguing for the perpetuation of insitutional church, which I am not. What I am desperate for is an articulate insitutional imagination. something more than the incapacity of being ant-institutional.

You see, if you get rid of hospitals you might remove the problems they produce as institutions, but you also remove the delivery of medicine from everyone who had access to it before, or restrict to just a few who are in proximity to the people who can provide it with no institutional support.

The question isn't whether you can avoid being an institution, the question is what kind of insitution can we imagine that will support the purposes of who and what we are trying to bring to others?

And always that organisation and institution will move to undermine what it was set up for. That includes the no-institution institutions.